This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 100.
Many members of Cambridge Cycling Campaign will have heard of CTC, the UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation, which was founded in 1878 as the Cyclists’ Touring Club. On the national level, the club campaigns for the interests of utility as well as recreational cyclists (http://www.ctc.org.uk). The local CTC group in Cambridge is also involved in campaigning, but above all we organise regular, sociable bike rides in our area.
Today was the first time I went out with the CTC this new year, and I did not expect to find a large group at the starting point. During the warmer months, our Sunday afternoon rides can be very popular, but during the winter, when the days are short and sometimes inclement, things tend to be quieter. However, when I arrived, there were a few people already waiting, and more turning up by the minute. Was it down to New Year’s resolutions, or to the mild weather, with only a gentle breeze from the west and the forecast for a dry afternoon? Or perhaps people just wanted to stretch their legs after the Christmas and New Year’s festivities. What ever it was, we eventually rode off in a group of 13 – a very respectable number for this time of the year. Not all were CTC members; we always welcome guests, and you don’t have to join the club to try out a few rides.
We set off just after 1.30pm, and with the tea stop planned for 3.30pm at the garden centre in Coton, today’s ride allowed for a gentle 25-mile loop. We rode out to the west of Cambridge, on cycle paths and quiet country lanes. This is typical for CTC rides – the ride leaders always search for the most scenic routes, avoiding busy roads wherever possible and making the most of the picturesque villages and country views that Cambridgeshire has to offer. In the summer, our rides take us further afield and often into Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk and Bedfordshire. This is one of the things I enjoy most about these rides – they are a perfect way to explore the countryside and get to know the area better. And being out and about in the fresh air, it is an experience for all the senses. You take in the views, feel the warm sunshine on your back (and sometimes the cold wind in your face), hear the birds sing, and smell the flavours of the different seasons.
There are some stunning views to be had from the Essex hills, but even on today’s ride, which never went more than 10 miles from Cambridge – a landscape that many think of as being completely flat – we climbed a few hills, enough to separate us temporarily into faster and slower subgroups. This is quite typical, too: we are not a racing club and often have cyclists of different abilities and on various types of bikes on our rides, and we don’t leave people behind. If the group gets strung out, we will stop to regroup, and if someone has a problem (like a puncture), the others will not only wait, but help to fix it. It truly is a social affair – including, of course, not only the cycling itself, but also the tea stops, which are held at country pubs, members’ homes, or garden centres, and are an integral part of all our Sunday rides.
The club organises a variety of rides throughout the week, all year round. On Sundays, we have all-day rides in addition to the afternoon outings, and during the warmer months (starting again in March) we hold Saturday morning rides twice a month. These are particularly suitable for newcomers, as they go at a slower pace and don’t typically cover more than 20 miles. There are also Tuesday and Thursday day rides, as well as Wednesday evening rides. So if your New Year’s resolutions include more cycling, or if you simply like the idea of enjoying the local countryside on two wheels, do come along.
More information and monthly diaries of all our rides can be found online at http://ctc-cambridge.org.uk
Julia Hochbach, Membership and Promotions Officer